2015 To Walk the Earth in Safety: Albania
Although mine impact-free since 2009, Albania suffers from the threat of poorly secured stockpiles of aging conventional weapons and UXO “hot spots” that continue to endanger the local population. Following widespread civil unrest in the 1990s, looters stole and proliferated many of Albania’s excess SA/LW and munitions left over from Enver Hoxha’s regime (1944–1985). Additionally, landmine and UXO contamination from the Kosovo crisis in 1998–1999 affect the country. Today, UXO remain clustered around a dozen former military impact ranges. Living close to these threats has proven dangerous for the population. The 2008 Gërdec military depot explosion that killed 26 people and injured more than 300 continues to serve as a reminder of the dangers of unsecured weapons facilities. The United States assisted with the Gërdec cleanup, contributing $14.5 million in CWD support.
From FY2000 through FY2014, the United States invested more than $38 million in Albania for CWD efforts. In FY2014, the U.S. government contributed more than $2.3 million for CWD in Albania.
The Department of State supported the work of the following implementing partners:
• ITF cleared one of the three remaining highest priority UXO hot spots in the country at Gjerovan-Berat, as requested by the Albania Mines and Munitions Coordination Office. They also allowed ITF to conduct a needs assessment for landmine survivors in the Shkoder and Lezhe Districts, home to the majority of Albania’s mine incident survivors and formerly the most mine-impacted region in Albania.
• NATO Support Agency (NSPA) modernized the Uzina e Lëndëve Plasës Mjekës (ULP Mjekës) facility and assisted with the destruction of 4,700 tons of conventional munitions at the facility. NSPA also led a pilot project between Albania and Montenegro, which successfully destroyed Montenegrin munitions, in November 2014. In addition, NSPA assisted with the destruction of 70,000 excess SA/LW from Albanian Ministry of Defense and police (Ministry of Interior) stocks at the Uzina Mekanike Gramsh (UM Gramsh) facility. This year’s assistance marks the completion of this weapons-cutting project.
With Department of Defense funding, U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) deployed military EOD personnel and trainers from the State Partnership Program in New Jersey (United States) to conduct UXO disposal training to improve Albanian underwater EOD capacity. The training covered survey, marking, and mapping of UXO contaminated areas; landmine and UXO disposal; quality assurance and control; and medical first-responder training with emphasis on blast-trauma injuries. It also included program assessment visits to monitor and improve all aspects of the UXO disposal program. US-EUCOM worked closely with the Global Peace Operation Initiative to coordinate the training and equipping of the Albanian EOD center. USEUCOM also conducted the basic medical and casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) course for 26 Albanian EOD center medics and hospital medics. The OHDACA appropriation funded humanitarian mine-action program activities, supplies, equipment, and services.